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Using Continuous Feedback to Rapidly Improve Your Channel Partner Program

Meaghan Sullivan, SAP

We’re delighted to share a guest post from Meaghan Sullivan, VP of Global Channel Marketing at SAP, an Averetek client.

In 2016, SAP scrapped the hallowed tradition of annual employee performance reviews. Waiting once a year to offer this critical feedback just wasn't fair to our team members. The occasion was too infrequent for anyone to make timely, meaningful improvements to their work.

As this annual framework didn’t work for our employees, it wasn't good enough for our channel partners either. So in 2016, we launched a way to collect brief, real-time feedback from channel partners within our partner platform. Here's more on why we did it, how we did it, and what we learned.

Translating Empathy into Action for Our Channel Partners

At SAPPHIRE NOW in 2016, our CEO Bill McDermott said, "Everything has to start with empathy for the end user and the experience they are getting from your company." How could we extend this concept to our channel partner program?

Though we’ve provided our partners with a marketing and sales enablement platform, SAP Virtual Agency, since 2011, we lacked a real-time understanding of how partners felt about the tool and its resources. We needed a digital transformation to help us understand the partner experience beyond the annual snapshot, so we could quickly respond to partner needs.

A large part of responsiveness is simply being more open and accessible. This means meeting partners where they are, in a relevant, convenient way. Conversely, the annual partner survey was:

  • Too generic and distant from the daily tasks partners perform.
  • Lacking in urgency to help partners with immediate concerns they faced.
  • Interruptive rather than helpful to partners.

TINYPulse, a company that administers pulsing surveys, explains why annual surveys are insufficient alone for monitoring shifts in attitude and perception. Situations “can turn south fast. During those long stretches of time when you aren’t looking, you might not even notice the culture shift happening right beneath your nose.”

Along those lines, we wanted a better way to listen and eliminate friction for our partners. We knew we needed a relevant, timely, and empathetic method of keeping a pulse on the partner experience.

Simple Surveys Within the Partner Platform

With the help of our platform vendor, Averetek, we launched micro-surveys within SAP Virtual Agency that partners could complete during tasks like publishing landing pages and sending email campaigns, without disrupting their workday. Rather than burden partners with complicated 1-10 scales or multiple questions, the survey looks just like this:

net promoter faces.png

Once the partner chooses a face, one additional field asks for commentary if they'd like to offer it. The experience is light, fast, and relevant for the moment.

net promoter feedback.png

What We've Learned From Micro-Surveys in Our Partner Platform

Since launching this feedback system in May of 2016, we found that when you ask the question at the right time, people will share their opinions, good or bad. Partner feedback has increased, and of thousands of responses about platform workflows, 85% of partners loved the experience, 12% were satisfied, and 3% were dissatisfied.

Even more important than the high-level responses have been the voluntary, follow-up comments partners are sharing. Because the feedback is tied to their work in the platform, it is tangible, which helps us respond quickly and address it. Contrast this with a once-yearly questionnaire capturing generic sentiments that aren’t actionable. Or, if there is an action, you’ve missed the opportunity to foster goodwill because the partner’s frustration began 6 months ago.

Instead of that experience, each day our team reviews all micro-survey feedback and contacts partners who submit “satisfied” or “dissatisfied” responses so we can learn how to improve their experience. And any time a partner offers comments (good or bad), we contact them to either thank them or see how we can solve the problems they’ve expressed.

The micro-feedback system has also given us greater visibility into issues by region, which workflows perform the best, and where the greatest opportunities for improvement lie. If there are campaigns, events, or even software issues that need addressing, we can quickly route feedback to the right team to help the partner.

Mike Moore, Averetek VP of Channel Strategy says, “We're happy to support SAP in this effort. We see these micro-surveys as an exciting opportunity to facilitate proactive conversations and rapid change with channel partners. This feedback system helps SAP show empathy for their partners, which will lead to higher rates of partner loyalty and retention.”

Summing It Up

Making a change to accommodate continuous partner feedback requires both a shift in company mindset and a process to support the new approach. If you’re going to ask the question, you must be prepared to hear the answer and act. This is where concierge services can be part of the solution if your team lacks the resources to keep up with the response.

While we're happy with preliminary feedback on the SAP Virtual Agency partner experience, we’ll keep striving to raise the number of positive responses. More importantly, we’ve found a way to better help our partners and quickly address what’s not working. By continuously monitoring and improving the platform experience, we can demonstrate empathy, build goodwill, and garner loyalty from our channel partners.

Channel Engagement, Continuous Feedback

Meaghan Sullivan, SAP

Posted By: Meaghan Sullivan, SAP

Meaghan Sullivan is the VP of Global Channel Marketing at SAP. In this role, she is tasked with accelerating global indirect revenue through channel marketing practices with a focus on VARs and Distributors. Sullivan focuses on Partner-Lead Demand Generation activities to provide SAP partners with innovative programs, campaigns and resources that enable them to more efficiently market their SAP solutions and services.

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